London, Asharq Al-Awsat—“Maha Al-Lozi, or ‘Lozi,’ is the late journalist Salim Al-Lozi your relative?”
“Yes, he is my father,” Maha answers, with a lump in her throat. She quickly looks over to one of the jewelry pieces that are displayed innovatively on a carpet of grass, as though she would prefer to change the subject.
Salim Al-Lozi was a famous Lebanese journalist and publisher who was kidnapped and assassinated in 1980; the identity of his killers was never revealed. Maha contents herself with saying that she is proud her jewels carry her family’s literary and press name, which is well-known in Lebanon and the wider Arab world.
We met in a luxury apartment in the heart of London. Maha chose the place to display her jewels and designs, which reflect her lovable, fun and cheeky character. Her neck was adorned with a long pendant necklace and two earrings of her own design, making her look like a butterfly.
Moving from one corner of the room to the other, Maha’s innovation and creativity were obvious from the outset. A unique display was constructed: two steel ladders with three pieces of wood placed in between, all festooned with ivy representing the “Poison Ivy”—her signature design.
Different items were displayed on shelves in plastic transparent boxes. The phrases she had written on them conveyed her quirkiness: “‘I have enough jewelry,’ said no woman ever” and “Grab life by the horns” in reference to her design that takes the form of a horn encrusted with zirconia gems.
The phrases are also evidence of the Lebanese designer’s spontaneity, who loves her home country from afar after spending most of her life in London. In 2006 she moved to Dubai to initiate a new phase in her career designing clothes for mothers and daughters before she moved on to jewelry design.
Maha started her interview with Asharq Al-Awsat by recounting the story of the bracelet that encouraged her to change her career. In 2009, one of her friends asked her to design a bracelet, which Maha did and the result was wonderful, she says. Maha purchased the gems from a jeweler in Dubai who encouraged her to continue designing. She started selecting more precious and semi-precious stones, and so the success story of Maha Al-Lozi, or “Lozi” as she is called by fashion critics, began. Maha is now launching her new collection in London at the shop at Bluebird located on King’s Road—the UK capital’s renowned luxury fashion avenue.
On the differences between dress and jewelry design, Maha says selling jewels is much easier. She loves her profession, which allows her to express herself through her own creations, also seen in the names of her collections, such as “Je m’en fous,” (I do not care), and “Vraiment, Je m’en fous” (Really, I do not care).
Maha loads her designs onto the computer before the image is transformed into a mold so that the craftsmen can begin their work. She deals with artisans from Lebanon who produce all the pieces by hand, a process that sometimes takes up to six weeks. As for the price tag, it ranges from 500 to 1,500 US dollars. Maha says that she tries to sell her work for the lowest price possible so that more jewelry and design lovers can afford her pieces. For this reason, to keeps costs down, she tends to use the zirconia gems instead of diamonds (in spite of her love for the latter), and uses 18 carat gold for the back of her earrings, but gold plated for the front of the design.
However, the majority of the cost of her designs goes to the craftsmen themselves, something that Maha encourages. Some of her pieces contain as many as 1,500 gems. Maha says that when one customer complained that the gems were not properly fixed, she answered “we are not perfect and so things around us cannot be perfect,” she added smiling, “This is what makes pieces unique because they are handmade and professionally done, and so they are individual and look different from one another.”
Maha says that she is not looking for fame, instead she just feels extremely happy to see a woman wearing one of her designs at a special occasion or in a restaurant. She says she is looking forward to expanding her business due to an already high demand on her products. Last year, she sold double the amount she sold the year before, she says. Today, her designs are available in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and London.
It is clear that the inspiration for many of her designs is drawn from the times that were special to her. Maha comments that her work is inspired by her own Middle Eastern heritage, she is greatly inspired by falamank, a Middle Eastern princess cut design, and concentrates on this type of cut in much of her work. Yet, her pieces also have a bohemian feel, which she acquired during her stay in Sloane Street in West London, where the native residents are called “Sloanies.” Maha Al-Lozi blends all these influences within a mold of superiority and femininity, unlike the classicalism repeated in past epochs.
Maha is of the view that jewels are the most important possessions a woman can have, for they can change the appearance of their clothing; a necklace, earring or a ring and transform a dress from day-wear to night-wear. Maha says she’s a fan of wearing more than one necklace, a style commonly known as “layering,” provided that the selection of the pieces is elegant, streamlined, and harmonious.
Asked about her own style, she says she likes anything organic, as manifested in the way she displays her pieces and in the ivy motif in her most prominent designs. At the same time she is an advocate of vintage and antique pieces, although she does not go for those by famous designers as you can easily find vintage anywhere. She prefers customized pieces that fit the character of the person wearing the item.
When asked whether she repeats her designs, she says she has no problem with redesigning an old collection with a small twist. Throughout the years, some pieces have proven to merit reproduction and remain firm favorites. Maha admits that she, like most designers around the world, is influenced by a design she sees and then imitates it to come up with her own version. This is exactly what happened with the design of an earring that Christian Dior is famous for: an earring with a small ball behind the ear. Maha developed this design into something completely different but relied on Dior’s main idea. The result was an earring with two wings around the ear. This collection also includes rings and a pendant so that it is complete.
Speaking of her future projects, Maha says she does not plan ahead and she lives her life day by day. She is very happy with the recognition she has received among fashion lovers. Her only goal is to keep pace and introduce designs that reflect her own character and vivacity.